Dodge Truck is using aggressive pricing to kick off its entry into the Class 4 and 5 market with its Ram 4500 and 5500 models, which enter production this month. Starting price for the 4500 Chassis Cab is said to be $645 less than for a major competitor, Ford's F-450, and the Dodge comes standard with diesel power and an array of other features.
Meanwhile, updated Sprinter vans are entering the market with revised suspensions, new engines and fresh styling. As with the previous model, diesel-powered Sprinters claim exceptionally high fuel economy. They come with high-volume van or bus bodies, and as stripped cab-chassis vehicles.
Suggested retail price for the 2008 Dodge Ram 4500 Chassis Cab is $34,050 and base price for the Ram 5500 Chassis Cab is $36,050. Both include a destination charge of $900. Although called Heavy Duty, the trucks are medium-duty in weight ratings: 16,500 pounds gross vehicle weight for the 4500 and 19,500 pounds GVW for the 5500. They go on sale this fall.
The midrange Rams, using cabs from the 1500, 2500 and 3500 series pickups and frame designs from the more recent Ram 3500 Heavy Duty, will be sold only as Chassis Cab vehicles for the mounting of a variety of commercial bodies. They'll come only with the 6.7-liter Dodge-Cummins Turbo Diesel, rated at 305 horsepower and 610 pounds-feet, with 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmissions. They'll be available with two-door Regular or four-door Quad Cabs and with two- or four-wheel drive.
Their frames consist of new front sections and upgraded C-channel main-rails spaced 34 inches apart in the rear, with bolted crossmembers. They also have higher-rated suspensions, brakes, wheels and tires, giving them a slightly higher stance than the Class 3 Ram 3500 HD on which they are based. They'll be assembled at a DaimlerChrysler plant in Mexico, where 3500 HDs are now built.
The gasoline Hemi V-8 will not be offered in the Ram 4500 and 5500 HDs, executives said, because more than 85 percent of customers for Class 2 and 3 pickups and cab-chassis models pick the diesel, and few commercial customers are likely to want gas engines.
Conversely, the new Mercedes-Benz-built Sprinter vans have a new 3.5-liter gasolineV-6 option along with a new 3-liter, V-6 turbo-diesel, which replaces the old inline 5-cylinderM-B diesel. Both come standard with 5-speed automatic transmissions. The new Sprinters ride and handle better than the previous models, and have modernized styling inside and outside. They are rated as 2500 Class 2 and 3500 Class 3 trucks.
The Class 4 and 5 commercial truck market that the heavier Rams will compete in now sees sales of about 140,000 units a year, Dodge execs said, and is expected to grow about 20 percent by 2015. Ford and General Motors now grab most sales in the conventional-cab segment, though International also offers conventional and low cab-forward models and Hino has conventionals.
Both Ford and GM also sell LCFs, as do Isuzu, Mitsubishi Fuso and Nissan UD. Competition will be based on features and price, and most contenders are expected to fiercely defend their current market shares.